Castles in the Sand
When packing for a day at the beach with kids, a bag of sand toys is almost as essential as sunblock and flip-flops. This summer, why not turn your little ones' passion for building castles into a sand party? Whether you're celebrating a birthday or just gathering the gang for a day at the shore, a sandcastle party is simple, fun, and memorable. Bring along a cooler of treats, plenty of child-safe supplies, and enough adults for careful supervision, and let your kids' creativity soar.
An eye-catching invitation sets the mood from the start. Three choices kids will love to help create: messages in a bottle (write party details on parchment paper, roll up, place in small plastic soda bottles, and hand-deliver), seashell invitations (use a metallic pen to write details on large shells), and sand invitations (fold construction paper and write details inside; on the outside fold, print "Sandcastle Party" in craft glue and sprinkle sand on top; let dry before mailing).
At the beach, divide guests into two or three teams, and give each one a sand project to build together. Jot themes on slips of paper, and let each team draw one out of a bucket. At our party, guests built a fortress-like castle and a raceway and garage for toy cars; other themes might include a fairy-tale castle, a city with skyscrapers, a sand village, or simple animals (turtle, alligator, fish, snake).
As kids make their masterpieces, encourage them to add decorative touches. For guests who aren't keen on digging, have beach balls, Frisbees, and paddleball equipment on hand for active play. And try a fun guessing game: Let one team make footprints in wet sand, and ask the other team to identify the prints before they disappear. Adult chaperones (one for every three kids) are essential for safety and should reapply sunscreen to children every two to three hours. In addition, bring along plenty of hats, cover-ups, and sunglasses for guests to wear.
What You'll Need
Beyond buckets and shovels, the following tools will help kids create impressive-looking structures, according to professional sand sculptor Rich Varano:
Plastic picnic utensils to carve details such as doors and windows
Rubber spatula to smooth surfaces and edges
Foam brush to get rid of loose sand without harming the underlying structure
Plastic drinking straw to blow away excess sand from the edges of sculptures
Decorative items such as twigs, leaves, shells, pebbles, sea grass, and seaweed (for kids 4 and up)
Pack easy-to-serve refreshments and lots of extra water. Berries taste great on the beach, particularly when served in bowls made from hollowed-out melons. Delight kids with a sorbet float, a mouth-watering mix of lemonade and strawberry or raspberry sorbet. And save the best for last: adorable ice-cream-cone pudding cups topped with graham-cracker crumbs and decorated with licorice to look like sand pails.
As the afternoon winds down, be sure to take photos of the kids' sand creations before the tide rolls in. For party favors, give little ones a small bucket to use next time -- a reminder of their fabulous day at the beach.